Wanted: book on Armenian calligraphy
Published: Monday July 09, 2012
Yerevan - Artist Ruben Malayan wants to create a book that will encompass the most fascinating examples of Armenian calligraphy: from following its evolution through time, to placing it on a level upon which it can be studied as an independent art form in itself.
The book will be designed to serve as a source of reference and inspiration to anyone interested in this subject, hence illuminating the future of this art form by offering inspiring examples of contemporary calligraphic work.
Calligraphy is script in its purest form. Its virtues aspire not only preciseness, beauty, distinctness, and simplicity, but also originality, proportion, and ultimately, unity, mastership, and freedom. Calligraphy can be regarded simultaneously as temporary art, as well as spatial art. By following the letter form, we 'reverse' time. In other words, by following the traces of the artist's struggle with the material, we can experience almost the same state as the artist at the time of creation.
The book's richly illustrated historical research will address script systems of the Near East, starting from as early as the late Iron Age (4 millennium B.C.), continuing with the invention of the Armenian Alphabet (405 A.D), and ending with the present day. The book, which will be designed to mirror authentic layouts of classical Armenian manuscripts, will offer a blend of academic research on the evolution of the tradition of Armenian writing, as well as contemporary calligraphic practice.
In short, this volume will be revealing a most rich yet most forgotten legacy of Armenian calligraphy, which can be found in the signatures of Armenian Cilician Kings, the letters of Komitas Vartabed, Sayat-Nova, and Archile Gorky, as well as in the correspondence of late 19th Century Armenian poets beautifully executed in stylized Sla'gir, etc.
The proposed volume will include essays from M. Stone, D. Kouymjian & H. Lehmann's "Album of Armenian Paleography" (Aarhus Press, 2002), providing the most recent research on Armenian paleography with regard to the letter types and their use over time. An insightful analysis of the arithmetical symbolism and mystical reverence of the Armenian Alphabet will be offered in an article by James Russell from Harvard University. A special chapter will be dedicated to the studies of Armenian calligraphy within the framework of classical Armenian education prior to the genocide, including (for the first time published in English) practical guides to Armenian calligraphy from Venice (1834), Vienna (1837) , Nor Nachijevan (1846), Leipzig (1873), Tiflis (1884) and Constantinople (1892).
Particular importance will be placed on the quality of printing, layout, design and typography as well as the binding and finishing of the book. The intent of this project is to produce a superb volume of reference and inspiration.
From Ruben Malayan:
Since the beginning of time man has been plagued by conflicting creative and destructive forces, surging within him. Forces which have produced much innovation but have also brought about destruction and decline. Human kind has spared no effort in destroying what it has created.
The destruction of the great library of Alexandria (642) & the library of Baghdad (2008) come to mind- the library of the latter has lost approximately 95 percent of its rare books. The world will continue to turn, but these precious manuscripts and the knowledge they contained, have been lost forever.
Fortunately, these acts of spontaneous or premeditated destruction have often been contrasted by the presence of individuals capable of genuinely creative work. Their passion, craftsmanship, skill and imaginative thinking, vividly displayed in the form of written art, have inspired my wish to further deepen my knowledge of the all but forgotten art of calligraphy.
My work focuses on the original techniques employed to complement the early development of the Armenian alphabet (405 A.D.) and the complex proportional canons that followed. An insightful graphic analysis of the arithmetical symbolism and mystical reverence of the Armenian script system is the cornerstone of this Art Project.
The art of calligraphy demands a considerable amount of inner effort; observing the purity of lines and outlines, discovering the forms used as accentuated reinforcements with plastic precision and symbolic accuracy. One must pay diligent attention to detail, repetition and variability in different parts of the composition. Its practice therefore cultivates precision, patience and observation within the artist. This is the Art of Calligraphy. Perfection is achieved through constant training and application. In its highest form, it is as pure and error-free as performed art, where error cannot be corrected because it has already occurred. Calligraphy is a temporary and spatial art at once, because by following the form we are able to 'reverse' time. Tracing the author's struggle with his material; following the intensity of the stroke, rhythm and movement, adhering to the discipline and virtues he embodied, one can connect to the experience of the artist at the time of its creation. Thus it is a true transmission of energy.
My conviction is that at the current circumstances we must use all available means to revive our calligraphic tradition. With abundance of talent but no cultivation or tradition, our children will never fully realize their artistic potential. Primitivism and functionalism emasculated the culture of communication. They denied the graphic writing the opportunity to improve artistically, and a person, to improve spiritually, by the simplest means, using paper, ink and a fountain pen or a brush only. Art of beautiful writing is the link to our past and with the attention it deserves it can help to shape our future as the nation of rich artistic heritage.
About the Author